WEAKNESSES: There's no way to replace Lewis, who died of a heart ailment over the summer. He was the team captain and the leading scorer (20.8) and the Celtics had nothing after he collapsed in playoffs and didn't return. Combined with the loss of Larry Bird and McHale, this team will take years to rebuild itself into a contender.
JORDAN FACTOR: Bulls weren't only team to lose their superstar unexpectedly.
Eastern Conference/Central Division
LAST SEASON: 44-38, 3rd, lost 4-1 in conference semifinals to Knicks.
COACH: Allan Bristow (3rd season, 75-89).
PROBABLE STARTERS: Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson, Johnny Newman, Hersey Hawkins, Muggsy Bogues.
KEY ALTERATIONS: ADDED G Hersey Hawkins (trade with 76ers), F Eddie Johnson (trade with Sonics), G-F Scott Burrell (20). LOST G Kendall Gill (trade with Sonics),
STRENGTHS: Tremendous amount of young talent in Larry Johnson (22.1 points per game, 10.6 rebounds) and Mourning (21.0 ppg, 10.3 rpg). . . . The addition of Hawkins is an improvement on Gill, who didn't really want to play for the Hornets anyway. . . . Eddie Johnson adds a much-needed scoring threat off bench to take pressure off Dell Curry. . . . Last year's playoff experience will be a benefit this season, when Hornets figure to be seeded high with a real chance to advance.
WEAKNESSES: Lack of depth was apparent in playoffs. . . . Team still would like to find a better starting point guard than Bogues. . . . Backup center Mike Gminski near the end of his career.
JORDAN FACTOR: How many pairs of Converse can "Granmama" Johnson sell?
OUTLOOK: Chuck Daly calls them "the scariest team in the East." Not many other teams benefit more from the retirement of Michael Jordan. Hornets have improved through off-season trades and should be division champions. Still a year or two away from being serious title contenders.
LAST SEASON: 54-28, 2nd, lost 4-0 to Chicago in conference semifinals.
COACH: Mike Fratello (1st season with Cavs, 324-250 overall).
PROBABLE STARTERS: Brad Daugherty, Larry Nance, Tyrone Hill, Gerald Wilkins, Mark Price.
KEY ALTERATIONS: ADDED F Tyrone Hill (trade with Warriors), G Gerald Madkins (CBA), F Chris Mills (22). Lost: Craig Ehlo (free agent), Mike Sanders (free agent).
STRENGTHS: Still have to be considered a favorite for the division title. Finished only three games behind the Bulls last season in the Central Division. . . . Coming off second straight 50-win season and led league in field goal percentage (.497), free throw percentage (.381) and 3-point percentage (.381). . . . Daugherty, a seven-year veteran, has averaged over 20 points for three consecutive seasons. Price and Nance also coming off solid seasons. . . . Fratello is high on Madkins.
WEAKNESSES: Looked terrible in playoffs, almost losing to an injury-ravaged New Jersey team before getting swept by Bulls. Fratello was brought in to get this team to the next level. . . . The loss of Ehlo removes an outside threat who provided 11.6 points per game and played a lot of minutes.
JORDAN FACTOR: No other team should rejoice more over Jordan's retirement. He killed them in the playoffs for years.
OUTLOOK: Fratello could be just what the team needs to be a powerhouse. A serious contender for conference title.
LAST YEAR: 57-25, 1st. Won third straight NBA championship.
COACH: Phil Jackson (5th year, 240-88).
PROBABLE STARTERS: Bill Cartwright, Horace Grant, Scottie Pippen, Toni Kukoc, B.J. Armstrong.
KEY ALTERATIONS: ADDED F Jaren Jackson (free agent), G-F Toni Kukoc (Europe), C Corie Blount (25). LOST G Michael Jordan (retirement), G Trent Tucker (released), G Rodney McCray (released).
STRENGTHS: Without Jordan, the greatest strength this team can rely on is experience. When it comes down to playoff time, that could be the key in a series against the Hornets, Magic, or another young team. . . . Pippen (18.6 ppg) remains one of the game's best forwards, but defenses will be keying on him now. . . . Grant (13.2 ppg, 9.5 rpg) also will be asked to score more.
WEAKNESSES: How do you replace the greatest player in the world? How do you replace 32.6 points per game and the potential for 50? How do you replace the seven-time defending scoring champion? Only one way: Talk him out of retirement.
JORDAN FACTOR: Playoffs start April 26. Will he be back?
OUTLOOK: Without Jordan, this team looks very ordinary. Look for Bulls to acquire a scorer in a trade.
LAST YEAR: 41-41 (5th). Lost 3-1 to New York in first round.
COACH: Larry Brown (1st year with Pacers, 434-342 overall).
PROBABLE STARTERS: Rik Smits, Dale Davis, Detlef Schrempf, Reggie Miller, Pooh Richardson.
KEY ALTERATIONS: ADDED G Ledell Eackles (free agent), G Haywoode Workman (free agent), F-C Scott Haskin (14).